Operators create display kitchens to add a sense of excitement and theater to their restaurants. At the same time, these spaces need to be efficient. When building a display kitchen, it’s important for operators to keep one more factor, service, in mind.

According to Chris Nixon, service manager with Albany, Ga.-based Sam Service, many of the service issues he sees in display kitchens boil down to decisions made in the design phase.

On the most basic level, features like casters and quick disconnect hoses are a must, Nixon says. While these components may not be pretty, they allow staff to move equipment easily for cleaning. Cleanliness is essential in all operations, of course, but the stakes become even higher in spaces completely visible to guests,  Nixon points out.

During the design phase, Nixon advises planning a display kitchen that pays special attention to what he calls door-to-door collisions. For example, when a piece with a right-swinging door is placed next to a piece with a left-swinging door, the two will collide. These collisions can take place in any kitchen but can be particularly troublesome when they’re in full view of guests.

“If it's a display kitchen, you have very nice, polished stainless equipment. Most of the time an oven in a display kitchen uses glass, so you could possibly bust the glass out. We see that quite a bit,” Nixon says.

Another appearance-based decision often seen in display kitchens is the addition of some sort of shell or facade over a line in order to create a unified appearance. When applying this principle operators should work with their kitchen design consultant and the fabricator of the shell to make it operational and service friendly, says Nixon.

First, the shell’s design should take the pieces of equipment it covers into account. “When you put a cover or something like that on, are you covering anything an operator needs to see,” asks Nixon. “If this light isn't on and it needs to be on, you need to know that. Does the piece block any airflow or restrict anything?”

A properly designed shell should also be easy to remove, says Nixon. He recommends attaching the equipment with simple brackets that allow service agents to easily remove the shell.

Always consider how to factor in ongoing service needs, Nixon adds. While an emergency repair is difficult for every operation, in a restaurant with a display kitchen, such a service call can completely ruin the ambience.

To avoid such calls, Nixon says, consider planned maintenance with a service agency even more important when display kitchens exist. Getting on a service schedule can keep a kitchen in good working order and reduce the chances of a disruptive and possibly embarrassing service call.

Display kitchens clearly require some extra consideration and attention. If carefully designed and maintained well, though, they can contribute to excellent customer experience.